BankBoston Tuesday unveiled three new Online Banking Services OfficeLink for small and mid-size businesses, a new version of its popular home banking program, HomeLink, and Online Account Opening. All of the new services will be available over the Internet, which means that customers will be able to access their accounts anywhere they travel. BankBoston is the first major bank in New England to offer banking transactions on the Internet.
The new services provide BankBoston customers with easier and more convenient ways to manage their finances, giving them more control over when and how they do their banking. Customers visiting the company’s web site, [www.bankboston.com], will have the ability to perform all of their banking transactions — from opening an account, to checking balances, to transferring funds and paying bills — from any computer, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
HomeLink and OfficeLink will be accessible on the Internet beginning in July, with both products available beginning May 26 through a private network. The security standards are the highest in the industry. The new HomeLink and OfficeLink use 128-bit encryption. To access their accounts through these services, customers must type in their BankBoston Card number and PIN to log-on each time they want to use the service. Other security measures include automatic log-off after 10 minutes of inactivity, and deactivation if an incorrect PIN number is entered more than three times. Online Account Opening is also very secure, using a combination of 40-bit encryption, internal firewalls and encrypted e-mail as well.
BUSINESS FOCUS OFFICELINK
Until now, elsewhere across the nation, small and mid-size business customers who wanted to conduct online banking had to utilize complicated financial planning software that may or may not have suited their business needs. The introduction of OfficeLink represents a quick, easy-to-use alternative, allowing business owners to control their business finances anytime, anywhere, in a matter of moments. “Our customer research indicated that our small business customers wanted online access to their accounts and that 85 percent of them own computers, yet only a small percentage were utilizing existing online services,” said Karen Green, executive director of Marketing at BankBoston. “Clearly, customers wanted a simple product — one that provides them with the ability to control their finances on a daily basis — so business owners can closely manage their cash position. With OfficeLink there is no lengthy set up, and virtually no data input, or learning curve,” added Green.
OfficeLink is a stand-alone system, provided to customers free-of-charge from BankBoston. Accessible by private network or via the Internet beginning in July, OfficeLink is available on a Windows or Mac platform. It gives customers the ability to view real-time balances and account activity as well as transfer funds for immediate access or future availability. Other features include the ability to set up balance alerts for notification when balances go above or below a predetermined amount, and to forecast balances based on transactions scheduled through OfficeLink.
Online Bill Payment is also available, for a fee of $3.50 per month. This feature allows business owners to make payments to virtually anyone in the United States, to set up automatic payments (i.e., lease or line of credit payments on the same date each month) and schedule future payments.
BankBoston utilized a consumer-aided design approach in developing OfficeLink, which was tested with numerous business owners with a varying range of computer skills. Customer comments and feedback were incorporated into the final product to ensure that it meets the needs of the small business customer.
THE NEW HOMELINK — Home Banking Made Even Easier
Since it was introduced in 1996, the number of HomeLink customers has grown to nearly a quarter of a million. This proprietary computer banking service gives customers the ability to check balances, transfer funds and pay bills from any Windows or Macintosh computer. It was the most successful launch of any home banking service in the country. (Currently, BankBoston has a higher percentage of its customers — 18 percent — using home banking than any other bank in the nation.) Now HomeLink customers can take advantage of an updated, easier version of HomeLink, available on the Internet in July.
The new HomeLink offers the same functionality as the previous version such as real-time account information, the ability to pay virtually anyone in the United States, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the ability to download HomeLink information to financial management software such as Quicken. Its new features include an updated graphical user interface, making the navigation from screen to screen much easier. All customer information is on the screen all of the time, and additional information is just a click away. Any customer account that is linked to a BankBoston Card can be accessed through the new HomeLink, and those accounts can be named online.
Two new convenience-oriented features of the new HomeLink are balance alerts and balance forecasting. Balance alerts inform customers at log-in if any account balances are above or below a predetermined amount. In addition, customers can be notified online if a bill payment has not cleared after a certain number of days. Balance forecasting enables customers to view their future balances based on scheduled HomeLink transactions.
Although it will be available via a private network, thanks to its Internet functionality, the new HomeLink can be used wherever a customer has access to a computer. For example, if a customer wants to check his or her account while traveling across the country, he or she can simply use any Internet-connected computer, access www.bankboston.com, click on the HomeLink icon and check account balances, make an account transfer or pay the mortgage immediately.
HomeLink is free to all customers who have a checking account, with a monthly fee of $3.50 for Online Bill Payment for some customer segments. This is the same price point as the first version of HomeLink.
ONLINE ACCOUNT OPENING — A Virtual Visit to the Bank at [www.bankboston.com]
Online Account Opening is an innovative service, that gives customers the ability to open a checking or savings account or a CD over the Internet. No other bank in New England offers this service. Regular visitors to the Web will find Online Account Opening the most convenient way to open an account. There is no need to visit a branch or use the telephone to get up to date account information or open an account.
Online Account Opening is fully interactive. The customer’s decision is supported by a “pathway” of information developed to answer all of the customer’s questions before a purchase decision is made. For example, a customer may not be sure which account best suits him or her, so before opening the account online, he or she uses the Personal Recommendation Tool. The customer submits financial information and a screen appears which details all of the features and benefits of the specific account that makes the most financial sense. At this point the customer can choose to open the account immediately by answering some questions, or continue through the decision-support feature and get additional information about other products and services.
Customers who wish to open multiple accounts at the same time have the added benefit of the “shopping cart” feature. They can pick and choose the accounts they want to open, and, because Online Account Opening is one integrated process, they never have to enter the information more than once.
“Over the past few years, there has been explosive growth in the number of customers accessing online products and services,” said Green. “Currently, over two million U.S. households bank online, and this number is expected to grow to 17 million by the year 2002. Within the BankBoston customer base, over 60 percent of our retail customers own a PC and 70 percent of those have Internet access.”
BankBoston (NYSEBKB), with assets of $71.4 billion as of March 31, 1998, was founded in 1784 and is the 16th-largest bank holding company in the United States. BankBoston offers a full range of banking services to consumers, small businesses and corporate customers in southern New England; delivers sophisticated financial solutions to mid-size and large corporations nationally as well as corporations and governments internationally; and provides full-service banking in leading Latin American markets. The Corporation’s common and preferred stocks are listed on the New York and Boston stock exchanges.